With Thanksgiving approaching, gratitude is on all of our minds. People who give thanks feel better, are more optimistic. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Here are five lessons that you can use to grow a grateful heart in your child:
1. Encourage Children to Help Around the House
Part of feeling gratitude is being aware of the effort someone else went through to give us something. Involve your child in family so that they can see this effort.
Doing chores gives children a sense of accomplishment, prepares them for the future, and helps them appreciate the work that goes into family life. That appreciation, in turn, promotes gratitude. By teaching them responsibility, we cultivate gratitude in the home, their primary place of teaching.
2. Do Community Service as a Family
Even very young children can help the community in one way or another. Helping others takes away the emphasis on material things and reminds us to be grateful for all that we have.
Opening their eyes to those in need and enriching their perspective of the world can allow them to appreciate all that they have and meaningfully contribute to the lives of others.
James 2:17 says faith without works is dead; serving others is one important way that children can live their faith and experience its joyful reward.
3. Create a Habit of Giving Thanks
Giving thanks to God isn’t an afterthought in the Christian life—it’s one of our most important responsibilities.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
The more gratitude you show, the more your child will adopt the attitude themself. Try to be patient though. Young children are so focused on themselves that it can take time for them learn gratitude. Regularity allows children to anticipate it and become mindful of their lists on their own.
4. Share Your Appreciation
One of the best ways we can encourage gratitude in our children is to model a grateful disposition ourselves. Try to talk regularly about what you're grateful for and why.
When we acknowledge a gift from God’s hand in our life and give thanks for it in front of our children, it encourages them to do the same.
Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Everything we do, our words and deeds, should spring from a thankful heart as we seek to model Christ. Linking a gratitude practice to a daily activity will help ensure the habit doesn't slip away after Thanksgiving.
5. Teach Children About the Many Attributes of God
Exploring the many praise-worthy attributes of God with children is the capstone of our effort. Learning about God’s unconditional love and activity will allow children to draw closer in relationship to the One whose blessing can best inspire their gratitude.
Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
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